A boatbuilder friend of mine talks about going to IBEX (the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference) like it’s his favorite candy store. Yeah, he’s a composites geek, fascinated by new fabrics, resin systems, and core materials, but he knows what makes a good boat, and he knows what it takes to build one. Every year, IBEX products and seminars show him new ways to improve.
IBEX is an annual joint venture of Professional Boatbuilder Magazine and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The site rotates, but one favorite is the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, location for this year’s show. Although 2015 attracted 545 exhibitors showing off everything from tiny switches to big diesels, a major feature was the annual and prestigious Innovation Awards program, judged by a panel of journalists from Boating Writers International.
So what wizardry did boatbuilding’s suppliers come up with this year’s show that BOATING’s readers should look for? Here’s a rundown of the products that received this year’s Innovation Awards:
• Boatbuilding Methods & Materials: Xtreme Tower Products/ Marine Accessories Corp., Mixed Media Parallel Hinge Tower–An ingenious and well-constructed tower with bimini that can lower to the windshield for trailering and storage or rise for a serious day on the water. Look for it soon on leading brands of tow sport boats.
• Deck Equipment & Hardware: Dowco, Easy-Lift–A deceptively simple latch and air shock system that makes raising and lowering a pontoon boat’s top quick, easy, and safe.
• Furnishings & Interior Parts: Syntec Industries LLC, Elage–A promising alternative to vinyl for boat upholstery. Elage contains no plasticizers, so it doesn’t age or crack and remains cool to the touch in direct sunlight.
• Mechanical Systems: Termodinamica SRL, Termodinamica VRV10–An elegant piece of Italian engineering, this heating and air conditioning system for cruising boats is durable and efficient.
• Electrical Systems: Bocatech Inc., BT1 5LEDSW-BF–A weatherproof, round electrical switch incorporating an LED light and an internal circuit breaker. With a small hole saw and some labels, it’s easy to create a neat, compact, safe dash panel without rocker switches.
• Outboard Engines: Attwood Corporation, MotorGuide X5 with VRS–An electric trolling motor with foot control programmed to make fine adjustments in course when moving forward along a shoreline or an underwater ledge. Push the pedal hard to avoid a sudden obstruction, though, and a special cam increases the motor’s turn radius for evasion.
• Propulsion Parts, Propellers: Mercury Marine, Flo Torq SSR-HD–A new propeller hub for big outboards. Hard rubber takes the initial burst of torque from the shaft, making the transition to the stainless steel hub smooth, quiet, and quick.
• Boat Care & Maintenance: Reverso Pumps Inc., Automatic Outboard Flushing System–A simple device for flushing multiple outboards automatically, in sequence. Easy flushing keeps engines happy longer.
• OEM Electronics: Simrad-Navico, Halo Pulse Compression Radar–Digital pulse compression allows this radar to show what’s out there “from harbor to horizon.” The display can show dual views with modes programmed for close-in work while still looking for birds ‘way out, diving on bait.
• Honorable Mention: OEM Electronics: Medallion Instrumentation Systems LLC, Malibu Surf Band–Tired of using hand signals to communicate between wakesurfer and boat driver? The wrist-worn, Wi-Fi Surf Band allows the person on the board to ask the driver electronically for specific changes in speed and wake characteristics.
• Environmental Award: Blue Gas Marine Inc., Natural Gas Hybrid-Fuel System–Natural gas is cleaner and less expensive than gasoline, and it avoids the problems of ethanol fuel blends. The Blue Gas system adapts easily to modern outboards.